One of the gifts of being a teacher in a Quaker, progressive education school such as Friends School of Minnesota is to have the freedom to shape learning and curriculum with the student’s interests and needs in mind. Teachers use their creativity, instinct and intuition, reflection, and knowledge of their student’s interests to create and facilitate learning. Ideas for study can come from many directions and guide learning that is joyous, vital, and has a deep investment from students.
When I returned last fall from the 2015 Progressive Education Network Conference in Brooklyn, I told the students about some of what I learned about Forest School education, where students their age spend their time learning exclusively outdoors. This sparked great interest and many questions that led to the idea of trying to have our own Forest School Day (although we have a building). Many ideas were floated and considerations made before we all settled on an all day field trip to Minnehaha Falls.
In the planning stages I asked the students what we should bring and wrote down their suggestions: “comfortable shoes, layers of clothes for winter weather, water bottles, backpacks, a lunch.” Then one little boy raised his hand and said, “ If it’s going to be cold, we should make hot soup.” This proved to be a popular idea and we decided to get broth chop vegetables, and make a soup to bring in case we got too cold. We were ready!
The November day came and it was a perfect Forest School Day weather–cold and crisp, but not too cold for hiking. We had a fabulous trip hiking the creek, marveling at the falls, and bonding as a class in a beautiful, gem of a park, nestled by the Mississippi river.
When we returned we collected ideas and images for the following class poem:
Field Trip Poem by the Mississippi class
We climbed down a steep hill
Listened to the roaring water
Threw sticks in the water
Saw a cave with roots inside
Saw wet logs in the creek
An ice tree by the waterfall
Small bridges, large bridges
One hundred and eight stairs
Petted Teagan the dog and his friend Kona the dog
We tried to hike all the way
to the Mississippi River
but got hungry
So we ate hot soup
So good, so warm
This poem captures the trip in many ways and came from the students’ joyous experiences.
During the days following this trip, students created word lists for a chart: river, creek, ice tree, Mississippi River, waterfall. They drew and wrote in their journals new words and images from the trip. They recreated bridges, rivers, and forests in the dramatic play area. The room was full of their experience.
We are ready to plan the next Forest day trip!
–Marshall Anderson, Friends School of Minnesota kindergarten teacher